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In a nutshell: This WWDC appeared to be more of a preparation for something bigger. They cleaned up and enhanced the software (OS versions). Of course, faster MacBooks are great, but that’s not typically what you mean by innovation from Apple.

Many had expected that Apple would now jump on the VR bandwagon, but no VR/XR hardware was presented this time. Does this mean the Metaverse is off the table for Apple?

Anyone who has been observing the IT industry for a while will notice that despite all the development of new technologies such as VR headsets or gesture recognition via cameras, our user interfaces are still based on the classic desktop-mouse concept with horizontal or vertical menus (even on mobile).

Apple was the first company to successfully establish user guidance with the mouse (stolen from Xerox...), replacing cryptic keyboard combinations with simple clicks. The same happened over and over again, with the iMac, Touch the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. First and foremost, Apple stands for making technology intuitively accessible to all.

In the battle for on-person sensors, Apple beat the weird concept of “Google Glasses” with the Apple Watch. Google Glasses will be remembered by the memes “Glassholes”, while Apple’s sensor continues to sell better than any other sensor. They simply had it elegantly packaged in a familiar watch form. It’s not really a watch after all (that’s still misunderstood today, I had described that in 2015).

Apple creates ecosystems. And successfully manages, maintains and expands them. This has been shown with the launch of the iPhone. First, a mobile operating system was established, and then apps and music were sold in a curated marketplace.

WWDC 2022

I think Apple is once again preparing for the next big leap. They have just announced several things:

WWDC 2022

In short, Apple is ready for the Metaverse. However, Apple is smartly waiting until users get accustomed to the technologies and until successful solutions emerge. The race for the next version of the Internet has begun. Apple does not seem to be in the running, but they are likely already in the lead.

The beginning of VR and AR technologies is not new at all. The first attempts to enter “virtuality” were made at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, virtual and augmented reality technologies have undergone a significant evolution.

According to a Digi-Capital report, the virtual and augmented reality market will grow from $13 billion (2021) to $67 billion by 2024. At the same time, it is expected that VR/AR devices will oust the popularity of smartphones, the current device number.

That is why Facebook began to acquire virtual and augmented reality companies, such as Oculus VR, Pebbles Interfaces, The Eye Tribe, Ready At Dawn, and Downpour Interactive and BigBox VR. Later in this article, the majority of VR and AR devices we will describe belong to Facebook!

VR and AR glasses

For a moment, VR and AR sets are the most popular and available for mass consumption products of such kind. Those are some of the most prominent companies that are producing VR and AR devices.

Oculus

As we mentioned above, Oculus is a company producing VR glasses that Facebook took under its wing. The Oculus set includes VR glasses and 2 remote controls for both hands. One of the main benefits of the glasses is their lighter weight in comparison to other models. The latest model, Oculus Quest 2, can also be used without controllers and the headset supports hand tracking.

Oculus can connect with PC and smartphones. The VR glasses come together with the platform, where users can browse and manage VR apps.

Oculus remains one of the most affordable options with a reasonable price on the market.

Oculus Quest S
Oculus Quest S, photo from ibzstore.com

Rokid Air glasses

Rokid Air - portable and lightweight glasses of augmented reality. Unlike VR glasses Rokid Air are smaller and can fit in a small bag or even in a pocket. Rokid Air is the first truly progressive smart glasses for consumers with the removal of content in amazing quality and comfortable ergonomics.

Users can run apps from a smartphone, play video games with a PC or console, and watch movies. Switching multimedia and other manipulations can be done using a voice assistant and gesture management.

Rokid Air glasses
Rokid Air glasses, photo from next.reality.news

Microsoft HoloLens 2

Previously, most people interacted with electronic devices through flat displays: laptops, computer monitors, phones, tablets, or video games on the television screen. Microsoft offers solutions using mixed reality and gives people the opportunity to work with holograms in the real world.

Mixed reality glasses Microsoft HoloLens 2 are the next generation of gadgets for working with VR/AR content. The device received an increased viewing angle, a new processor, a unique system for tracking the position of the eyes and hands, as well as voice control. New HoloLens 2 glasses provide more complete immersion and are also more intuitive and convenient to use. The device allows you to interact with holograms and VR objects using your hands at an intuitive level, without special gestures.

It’s important to mention that for now those glasses are extremely expensive ($3,349 - $4,349 for a pair) and designed for use by employees whose hands are busy performing physical labor. They help them identify the problem in the operation of the aircraft or see step-by-step instructions.

Microsoft HoloLens 2
Microsoft HoloLens 2, photo from pocket-lint.com

Other technology for immersion

The era of Web 3.0 brought us an opportunity to develop new innovative technologies. The development of VR and AR was only a first step. However, they are already not enough for the immersion the users would expect. Hence, there are additional technologies that will help to enter the metaverse.

Sensor Gloves

Sensor gloves are supposed to give sensations such as pain, heat, numbness, cold, and others. This glove would be essential to enter the metaverse. That’s why there is no surprise that Meta is investing in the development of sensor gloves. The company is developing handwear that reproduces sensations such as grasping an object or running a hand along a surface.

Apart from Meta, there are other developers designing sensor gloves. In the recent paper by Jasmine Lu, Ziwei Liu, Jas Brooks, and Pedro Lopes, the group of scientists describe the concept of sensor gloves that implement chemicals triggering user sensors (also known as chemical haptics). Those chemicals are safe and contain small doses of key active ingredients. Those are tingling (sanshool), numbing (lidocaine), stinging (cinnamaldehyde), warming (capsaicin), and cooling (menthol).

Sensor Glove
Sensor Glove, photo from the research paper by Jasmine Lu et al.

Let’s see what other wearables we will see on the market with such technologies 😉.

Face tracker

Another important player in the virtual reality market, Vive releases a face tracker - a small and inexpensive ($130) gadget that attaches to VR glasses and reads emotions from the lower part of the face, which are the lips, chin, and even tongue.

There is a problem with avatars in virtual reality - lifeless faces. Thank the face tracker, this problem will remain in the past.

Vive face tracker
Vive face tracker, photo from vive.com

Neurointerface

Traditional control systems, whether for work or entertainment, have always been required to use the output of your physical actions, like pressing the buttons or using the remote control. Imagine that instead of an additional tool to operate a computer, one can operate it with thoughts!

Facebook is the one that wants to implement this function in its metaverse. That is why the company acquired CTRL Labs. CTRL Labs is developing a wristband-like device that will allow controlling digital interfaces by using the electrical signals that run through the user’s arm. That is how it allows the brain to control the movement of the hands and fingers.

Miointerface will solve one of the fundamental problems of virtual and augmented reality devices: it will finally become convenient to type on virtual keyboards because humanity has not yet invented any faster way to enter text. Modern controllers are good for any actions - shooting, drawing, modeling - but not for text input and working with very small details. If such a prototype becomes a mass-produced device in the next year or two, working from home in a virtual “office” from the exotic will become commonplace - after all, it is much more pleasant to work not with the small screen of your laptop, but with a virtual surface the whole wall.

Another company Valve is developing the dream of advanced humanity - a gadget that helps users control other devices by the mind. Valve’s partner on this project is the company Tobii, a world’s leader in eye-tracking technology.

A bracelet by CTRL Labs
A bracelet by CTRL Labs photo from uploadvr.com

Of course, this selection does not end with the amazing news: Apple’s AR/VR devices have been rumored for years, and they threaten to hit the market in the next few years; Samsung is also developing augmented reality glasses; the list of incredible new things can be added to literally every week. And this is how we are witnessing the change of must-have devices, where VR glasses will exchange the smartphones.

Niantic announced another AR real-world adventure game Peridot. Peridot is a Tamagotchi-like game where players raise and take care of unique virtual creatures.

Peridot creatures (Dots) come to life thanks to AR technology. They are to recognize the difference between the surfaces such as water, grass, sand, and many others. The app can also be easily integrated with social media platforms to quickly and easily share photos of game shots. For the moment, Peridot is available only in Malaysia as a beta version.

While players are looking forward to the release of Peridot by Niantic, let’s remember one of their most popular games - Pokémon Go.

The game was released on June 6, 2016, and a week after its release, the Nianticcompany’s stock rose 1.5 times! Hundreds of thousands of people were hunting for virtual animals. People were catching Pokémons in offices and parks, discussing them over lunch, and generally seeming unable to talk about anything else. What is the secret to the project’s success and why have Pokémon gained popularity so quickly?

How to play

After signing up, the player creates an avatar by choosing gender, hair, skin, eye color and style. Later, the avatar is displayed on the map using the player’s current geographical location. There are special points on the map: PokéStops (a place that provides players with items) and Gyms (where Trainers can battle the Pokémon of rival teams).

The main goal of the game is simple: catch and train Pokémon. The player looks at the world around them through a smartphone camera, and the game superimposes a layer of virtual objects. You can not play by simply lying on the couch! The player must really walk around a lot.

If Pokémon is found, a player needs to point the smartphone camera at them and throw a pokéball (a unique red and white ball) by swiping the touch screen. If missed, the Pokémon will run away. Factors for successful capture include the correct strength, timing, and type of pokéball used. Later, one can train pokémon in special areas after reaching level five.

Pokémon Go

There are 17 types of Pokémons and they all are different in their skills and superpowers.

Pokémons that appear on the map depend on criteria known only to the developers. Different types of Pokémons reside in various locations in the world. For example, water-type Pokémon tend to be near water. Or, for instance, at night, one can meet a Pokémon- ghost.

Catching all Pokémons is very difficult: There are 751 “pocket monsters” in the game created by the developers. The ultimate goal of the game is to complete the entries in the Pokédex - a comprehensive encyclopedia of Pokémon.

What’s the secret to Pokémon GO’s success?

Talking about the secret to the success of the game, the first noticeable thing is the unusual mechanics of Pokémon GO. It encourages players to move, explore the city and pay special attention to particular places, rather than just staying at home in front of the screen. Players used to share how many steps they had done just by searching for the Pokémon.

Second, it’s a free game with in-game purchases: all the necessary items appear in the Pokéstops and can be earned during the game, but some of them can be bought for real money.

Another benefit is the attentiveness of the developers. During the pandemic, Niantic made some changes and added new features to the game, making it easier to play from home.

What is hard not to mention is the popularity of Pokémons themselves. The entire generation has grown on the animated series about them. However, there were no such games about Pokémons in the early 2000s.

Lastly, it’s important to mention that Pokémon Go has some aspects of the metaverse. Capture this: the game is happening in the meta-reality via AR, where the real world is extended and enriched with digital elements. Most probably, with the growing popularity of the metaverse, the developers can bring Pokémon Go to the next level and get a second wave of popularity.

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